Giving Thanks for Food
Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for all God has given us, especially for the gift of food. In 1621, the Pilgrims enjoyed a feast and gave thanks for their good harvest, and food has been an important part of Thanksgiving celebrations ever since. Did you know a typical Thanksgiving meal, including appetizers and desserts, can weigh in at 4,500 calories (according to the Calorie Control Council )? That explains the turkey coma after our Thanksgiving meal! It is so easy for us to take food for granted. Most of us cannot imagine what it would be like to have food insecurity. However, many children and families in San Marcos are well aware of this condition.
School Fuel: Combating Food Insecurity
One in seven residents of Hays County have food insecurity, according to “hunger facts” on the Hays County Food Bank website. Here in San Marcos, where more than 25,000 residents live below the poverty line, the numbers are higher. In the San Marcos CISD, 68.5 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In fact, the San Marcos CISD Child Nutrition Services and all of its schools changed its policy this year for serving meals to children under the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. SMCISD schools now provide breakfast and lunch to all children at no charge, eliminating the requirement for parents to apply for assistance. The schools were able to make this change thanks to the federal Community Eligibility Provision program that permits eligible schools to provide free meals to all students, regardless of economic status.
Food Insecurity: Providing Fuel for Weekends
Getting nutritious meals during the week at school is one thing. But what about the weekends and holidays? The reality is that some local children spend their weekends at home with little or no food, resulting in lower levels of performance at school during the week. It was this food insecurity gap that prompted local individuals to launch School Fuel in the spring of 2013. In the pilot program, 31 students received sacks of food on Fridays to take home and eat over the weekend. The success of that pilot, measured by the students’ increased academic performance, higher attendance and fewer visits to the nurse’s office, showed the need for this kind of weekend food program. Ever since the, School Fuel has been going strong and growing each year. Currently, the non-profit organization provides 703 San Marcos elementary school children with food bags each Friday during the school year.
Food Insecurity: How You Can Help School Fuel
School Fuel is operated by volunteers and many local groups help out every week by filling the sacks of food. San Marcos Academy staff and student groups like the Ambassadors have been among those volunteering at the School Fuel headquarters at 211 Lee Street. The cost of a bag of food per student is about $215 (or $18/month), so School Fuel always appreciates monetary gifts. Donating items for the three “special sacks” for the longer holidays is another way to help. Just drop off 18 ounce jars of peanut butter, 1.55 oz. Hershey bars and boxes of Ritz crackers in sleeves. Visit the School Fuel website to learn more about how you can help, either individually, or with your church, civic group or business.
So, as you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal this year and give thanks for the food you have, consider contributing to School Fuel’s efforts to combat childhood hunger and food insecurity—either with your time or by sponsoring a child. Contact the group at SchoolFuel2013@yahoo.com or call Nancy Smith (a member of SMA’s technology team) at 512-557-7740 with questions.